War Criminals Spied for the U.S.

Newly declassified documents reveal that the Central Intelligence Agency recruited suspected Japanese war criminals to spy for the U.S. after World War II—and got bilked in the process. Evidence uncovered when an Associated Press reporter culled through the documents suggests that the Japanese operatives passed on useless intelligence and capitalized on their U.S. ties for smuggling or right-wing militaristic activities. “Frequently they resorted to padding or outright fabrication for the purpose of prestige or profit,” a 1951 CIA assessment said of the agents.

The spies included a Who’s Who list of shady Japanese figures: Colonel Masanobu Tsuji, who has been implicated in the massacres of Chinese civilians and the Bataan death march; Seizo Arisue, Japan’s intelligence chief at the end of the war; Yoshio Kodama, a mob boss and war profiteer, and Takushiro Hattori, private secretary to former prime minister Hideki Tojo. The main goal of the program was to use those men to spy on communists inside Japan, to infiltrate North and South Korea, and to use mercenaries to help the Taiwanese defenses in China against the People’s Liberation Army. The CIA ultimately decided these enemies-turned-spies were useless. In one case, money provided for a boat to infiltrate Japanese agents into the Soviet island of Sakhalin disappeared. In another, the Japanese operatives ended up horse-trading in Taiwain for shiploads of bananas to sell on the black market at home.

—Chris Kelly

Band of Brothers Hero Honored by the Dutch

Dick Winters, the former commander of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, was awarded the Medal of the City of Eindhoven, Holland. Easy Company, famously known as the Band of Brothers, parachuted into Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Three months later, the unit liberated Eindhoven as part of Operation Market-Garden. Winters is the first American to receive the prestigious award.

—Kathy Lynch

Granny Finds Grenade in Her Groceries

A 74-year-old Italian grandmother un- wittingly brought a World War II souvenir home with her recently from her local vegetable market in San Giorgio a Cermano, a village near Naples. “I found a bomb in the potatoes,” Olga Mauriello told a Reuters reporter. As she washed the dirt off one spud, she was shocked to discover it was a standard U.S.-issue grenade with its pin missing. Mauriello was relieved when local police retrieved her hot potato.

In a related story, Peter Todd and his wife got more than they bargained for when they paid $10 for woodworking tools at a recent auction in Melbourne Australia, only to discover an an Italian Breda grenade at the bottom of the toolbox. The grenade was most likely brought back to Australia as a souvenir by a returning soldier. The couple stated that they had accidentally dropped the box in their driveway because it was so heavy. Fortunately, the grenade was not live and was delivered safely to the Army’s Bomb Response Group.

—Chris Kelly

Holocaust Denier Convicted in Germany

Notorious Nazi propagandist Ernst Zundel has been sentenced by a court in Mannheim, Germany, to five years in prison. Zundel contributed to a Web site devoted to Holocaust denial—a crime in Germany—and founded the now-defunct Samisdat Publishers, which published such titles as The Hitler We Loved, Did Six Million Really Die? and The Hoax of the Twentieth Century.

Zundel emigrated to Canada from West Germany in 1958, in order to avoid being drafted. In 1980 a West German Ministry of Finance official told legislators that more than 200 right wing and neoNazi publications were intercepted entering the country, most originating from Samisdat. Canadian officials temporarily suspended Zundel’s mailing privileges and charged him with publishing news “that he knows is false and that is likely to cause mischief to the public interest in social and racial tolerance, contrary to the Criminal Code.” He was sentenced in 1988 to 15 months’ imprisonment, but his conviction was ultimately deemed a violation of free speech rights by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Zundel campaigned in Canada to ban the movie Schindler’s List on the grounds that “it generates hatred against Germans.” In 2005, a Canadian judge ruled that he was a security risk and ordered him deported to Germany. He was arrested at the Frankfurt airport and ultimately convicted of inciting racial hatred. Zundel’s lawyers said they will appeal.

—David Lesjak

Long Lost U.S. Submarine Found

Russian divers recently located the wreckage of a storied U.S. submarine in the La Perouse Strait, between Hokkaido, Japan, and Sakhalin, Russia. Wahoo mysteriously disappeared on September 13, 1943, en route to a mission in the Sea of Japan, and was thought to have been the victim of either a faulty torpedo or an enemy mine. New evidence supplied by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force now indicates that the Gato-class submarine fell victim to a multihour air and sea attack.

Wahoo was credited with sinking 20 ships. By mid 1943, the sub established a record not only in damage inflicted on the enemy for three successive patrols, but also for accomplishing this feat in the shortest time on patrol: a total of 60,038 tons sunk and 24,900 damaged in only 25 patrol days. The sub’s skipper, Commander Dudley W. “Mush” Morton, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, his fourth, for his last mission. An at-sea wreathlaying service to honor Morton and his crew of 79 sailors will take place over Wahoo’s final resting place in the fall of 2007.

—David Lesjak

Nazi Genocide Files Made Public

Long-secret documents concerning the Nazi death marches near the end of World War II and the desperate conditions at the Dachau concentration camp have been made available for the first time to Holocaust researchers. Log books, transport lists and death registers housed in Bad Arolsen, Germany, were sheltered from public scrutiny for six decades, except for use by the International Committee of the Red Cross to trace missing people after the war and to validate victims’ compensation claims. The archive contains approximately 17.5 million names of people put into either forced labor or concentration camps or killed, as well as first-hand accounts of Nazi activities. In one handwritten note, SS leader Heinrich Himmler insists that “no prisoner must be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive.” The exact number of people killed during the Nazi death marches is unknown, but is estimated to be close to 250,000.

—Chris Kelly

German Gun Battery at Normandy Opens

The Maisy gun battery, a vast German defensive complex overlooking the Normandy beaches, opened to visitors this spring. Abandoned after the Allied victory and eventually overtaken by thick brush growth, the complex includes gun emplacements, living quarters and storage areas linked by 1500 meters of tunnels. British history buff Gary Sterne uncovered the long forgotten battery and now owns the site. He theorizes that the big guns installed at nearby Pointe du Hoc were a German war ruse aimed at drawing attention away from Maisy, which continued pounding Omaha Beach for three days after D-Day (See “Does Pointe du Hoc Still Matter?” World War II, October 2006). Sterne invited several Rangers who participated in the battle to capture Maisy to the opening ceremony of the memorial site.

—David Lesjak

Tuskegee Airmen Feted by Congress

President George W. Bush presents the Congressional Gold Medal to surviving veterans of the Tuskegee Airmen on March 29, 2007, during a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Accepting the award on behalf of the group was Dr. Roscoe Brown Jr. and five other members of the Airmen. President Bush professed “a strong interest in World War II airmen. I was raised by one.” The 332nd Fighter Group, the Tuskegee Airmen, were the first African Americans to earn their Army Air Forces pilot’s wings. Collectively, they flew more than 15,000 sorties during World War II and destroyed more than 400 enemy aircraft. About 300 Airmen attended the ceremony, with their wives and relatives. The Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress.

—Kathy Lynch


Originally published in the June 2007 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here